Bicycle Racing News and Opinion
Tuesday, April 21 2015
Tuesday, April 21 2015
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Today is the first stage of the Italian Giro del Trentino. It's a 13.3 kilometer team time trial.
Then on Wednesday, we'll have the single-day Belgian classic La Flèche Wallonne, 205 kilometers of tough, hilly racing.
Big Fight between UCI and past UCI boss Verbruggen
This is going to be the day's only story. Hein Verbruggen was the president of the UCI, cycling's governing body, from 1991 to 2005 and is currently the UCI's "Honorary President". To bring the reader up to speed, Great Britain's Guardian newspaper summed up the situation to date very well:
"Hein Verbruggen is fighting a rearguard action to retain his status as the UCI’s honorary president after his successor Brian Cookson called for the Dutchman to resign. The Independent Commission for Reform in Cycling’s report into the sport’s doping past, mandated by Cookson and published on Sunday night, concluded that under Verbruggen’s leadership the UCI had colluded with Lance Armstrong to circumvent accusations the seven-times Tour de France winner had doped.
"Cookson, the UCI president, said: 'I am very concerned by what I read in the report about Hein’s actions and I will write to him asking him to consider his position as honorary president.'
"He added that, in his view, Verbruggen had placed the business side of the sport above its integrity and made 'serious errors of judgment and wrong decisions'"
Verbruggen is taking this seriously. He sent a long letter in English to the UCI defending his term. Belgium's De Morgan newspaper published it in full. And this is why this is the day's only story. Everyone is summarizing Verbruggen's letter, but we're posting it in full to help the reader make his own judgement.
In happier times, Hein Verbruggen and Lance Armstrong
Verbruggen's letter to the UCI:
Dear Members of the Board, it has become clear that what I am dealing with here is simply a personal revenge campaign against me by Mr. Cookson. What is more, I have more than sufficient indication and proof that this campaign is being conducted solely by Mr. Cookson. I have never seen or heard anybody else from your Board or from the UCI speak out publicly on this issue; it is only Mr. Cookson. I could go even further: I have received a great deal of support from many people in the cycling world, indeed also from a number of Board Members (!) and they have told me that they do not wish to pursue this matter. In a nutshell, there has been no "wrongdoing"; why then should there be any sanction?
I therefore declare here and now that I will consider the withdrawal of my title to be a 'sanction' and I will NOT accept being sanctioned, especially not by such a person as Mr. Cookson! Be aware that the UCI should be prepared to face legal action against any sanction imposed on me based on either Mr. Cookson declaring me a "dictator", or on the clearly biased CIRC report.
In conclusion, I would like to make a number of short statements, that I would ask you to consider and to judge:
1. In the (largest) Dutch newspaper, De Telegraaf, it was written: "With the statement that Hein Verbruggen should relinquish his position as Honorary President of the UCI, the current UCI President Brian Cookson made it clear why he had no less than Euro 2.8 million to spend to rake over these old controversies". From this statement, it is clear that this whole CIRC was set up by Mr. Cookson under pressure from some (mainly) British journalists in order to find proof for their fabricated stories about 'complicity and corruption' that they had written in their books and articles. I know for certain that a number of high-ranking sports officials had urged Mr. Cookson to not install a CIRC to investigate something that could so easily be checked: Armstrong had quite simply never had a positive dope test, as had already been clearly demonstrated to WADA back in 2010. But Mr. Cookson knew better and, at a cost of Euro 2.8 million, he had a report produced that has now not only confirmed "no complicity or bribery" but also that, as the same article in De Telegraaf says: "In a report by the CIRC running to 227 pages, the doping culture of the nineties was redefined as though it were the Second World War of cycling. It is however little more than a summary of what was already known." (my translation)
2. Please understand that almost Euro 5 million (!!) has now been spent by the UCI, a sum which has ultimately proved what exactly? The first Commission had not even started its work before it was sabotaged by WADA and USADA; the second Commission (the CIRC) proved what did not have to be proved - and offered only an unsubstantiated "character assassination" of me! Mr. Cookson might find me "dictatorial", but this "dictator", when he was President, would never have allowed these ridiculously huge amounts of money to be spent in such a wasteful way. Ironically, Mr Cookson has been wasting money that had not even been made by his efforts, but rather by his predecessors. It was money that could have been so much better used for the benefit of the sport of cycling.
3. In all honesty, it was not only the (British) press that was putting pressure on Mr Cookson to set up the CIRC, but it was also WADA. Please know that my cooperation with the CIRC was made conditional upon the CIRC also investigating WADA's wrongdoings towards cycling and the UCI. I presented an extensive report on this issue to the CIRC with a great many important questions, a number concerning WADA. The CIRC totally ignored my report and my questions, in spite of the fact that they had assured me that "they would look into ALL STAKEHOLDERS". The CIRC has even chosen not to publish my report as an attachment to theirs. I will therefore shortly send you my report, so that you may judge for yourselves. My reservations concerning the CIRC's mission and intentions were because (a) Mr. Cookson had nominated the CIRC Members in close cooperation with WADA (remember: Pat McQuaid was not allowed to nominate the Members of the first IC) and (b) the CIRC's Terms of References were written with the help of WADA's lawyers. That was enough for me to be very suspicious about this CIRC, as I have written several times to Mr. Cookson and to the CIRC itself. I was unfortunately wrong to believe that the CIRC would be neutral and objective; they were not. As I will soon prove, it has resulted in a CIRC report that could have been written by WADA itself, more particularly Mr. Dick Pound. It is a long litany of highly subjective accusations against me (my name is mentioned 115 times) and against UCI's antidoping policy - with the cheap accusation that we were more in favour of riders' health than anti-doping, totally ignoring the fact that you can do both at the same time. But the report is even blatantly unfair towards our sport and - in particular - towards our professional riders.
How can you put in a report, based upon the declaration of one "respected" witness, that "90% of riders are still doping"? How can you state without thorough research that 90% of the TUE's are still being used for doping? This is insulting demagogy that would never be found in any serious reports! It is flabbergasting that Mr. Cookson allows his sport and his athletes to be attacked like this. He should stand up to defend his sport and his athletes against these cheap attacks, as indeed I did when I took people such as Messrs. Pound, Voet, Landis and Kimmage to court and lodged an appeal in the Festina-case (and, incidentally, won all court cases to date!). Even this defence of our sport is now being used against me by the CIRC and Mr. Cookson. But make no mistake, I am proud of it. I defended our sport (not doping!) when we were being unfairly treated and receiving undeserved criticism. In doing so, I defended also the reputation and the integrity of the UCI anti-doping workers, be it staff or volunteers! Instead of taking away honorary titles, Mr. Cookson should rather follow the example of this "dictator" and defend his sport and his athletes in the same way as I did. It is totally unacceptable that a President of the UCI should accept these unproven accusations. His acceptance demonstrates that the only thing he is interested in is his personal, self-proclaimed war against me and my presidency.
4. Last but not least, dear Members of the Board, you as insiders know very well that there is very little reason for Messrs. Cookson and Gibbs to be very proud of their presidency to date. Before they start attacking others for "mistakes" made, these gentleman should analyse what exactly they have "achieved" over the past 19 months. Reading all their "roaring" media statements and press releases (apparently, huge sums are still being spent on PR and spin doctors) one sees a great many "promises and plans" and lots of "we are working hard" and even more about "commissions are installed". What you don't read about is any tangible action or decisions and even fewer results. What's more, the results you do see are negative! It is well known that the atmosphere in the UCI offices is at an all-time low; that there is a climate of fear. People are afraid they will be fired if they speak out, or voice any form of dissent or criticism and that any contact with either Pat or me is strictly forbidden.
But worse than that: Messrs. Cookson and Gibbs have fired or harassed out a great many excellent and long-time people for no other reason that they had previously worked with either Pat or me. These include Messrs. Rumpf, Chevallier, Middag, Verbiest, Siegrist ... Messrs. Cookson and Gibbs have totally ignored the interests of the UCI by firing people with such a treasure of know-how and experience, just because they have prioritised their personal revenge "obsession". They have, sadly enough, unnecessarily created undeserved personal misery for a great many people. This is totally unacceptable. Whatever the CIRC (or rather people like Mrs. Sylvia Schenk and Mr. Jean Pitallier) says about my "dictatorial" management style, I would NEVER have done the sort of things that Messrs. Cookson and Gibbs have done. I challenge the CIRC to carry out some proper research among the UCI staff during my Presidency and compare that with Mr. Cookson's Presidency and let them say which one they preferred!
Perhaps one should give Mr Cookson a copy of the book that was offered to me by the UCI when I stepped down from the Presidency in 2005! Do it and let Mr. Cookson read the comments of many people (yes, also Messrs. Armstrong and Pound) and then let him aim to receive similar kind comments at the end of his term in office. I can tell you, he still has a long way to go.
I will stop here talking about the Presidency of Messrs. Cookson and Gibbs, but not without adding that the UCI's image at the level of the Professional Teams and Organizers has seriously been damaged over the past 19 months as a result of a Cookson policy that drifts from left to right and is characterized by a total lack of decisions. I have been told by a number of you that also the Board is only too aware of this. Not taking decisions was also something that did not happen in the Verbruggen-era as most of you know well. But taking decisions is what is now referred to as being "dictatorial".
Dear Members of the UCI-Board, I do realize that this letter is probably over-long and taken a great deal of your time to read. But I hope you will understand that I had to get these messages to you in order to tell you MY side of the story, as well as inform you of the actions that I will be taking. I remain very open to be contacted by any and all of you.
I wish you lots of wisdom in these difficult times for the UCI organization. I also hope we will find consolation and joy in the beauty of cycling as we see it performed during the annual April high point of our sport.
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